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How to perform well at an interview

Journey 4

The nerves and jitters that seem to be part of preparing for interview can prove to be unnecessary - often left behind you when you’re finally there, in front of the interviewer. It’s rarely as bad as you think it’s going to be.

However, as many golfers will tell you, for some reason a perfect practice swing is rarely mirrored by the actual one so, much as you might practice, prepare, and think you have it right, it’s being able to deliver that performance again on the day that really matters.

“The Performance”

Why do people worry about how they’ll perform at interview? Usually it’s simply a fear of the unknown. “What will the interviewer(s) be like?”, “Will they ask me really difficult questions?”, “Will they like me?” The first thing to realise is that the interviewers are just as keen that you’ll do well. Although they might be hoping to see a good ‘performance’, they’re not trying to ‘trip you up’.

As in most situations, first impressions do count. This may be the first time they’ve met you. Until now, they’ll have only an idea of you based on your CV/application /LinkedIn profile and therefore their expectations are bound to be fairly neutral. So, you need to exceed these expectations - immediately. Always offer a firm handshake, with good eye contact; and a smile. Show that you’re enthusiastic about this meeting, even looking forward to it. That’s a good start.

It may seem obvious but do make sure your phone is switched off. (Or, better still, left outside the room.) Also dress appropriately. OK, so what is ‘appropriate’? A good measure is to imagine how you would dress within the job itself, and then take it a wee notch higher. No-one could object to that. On the other hand, they would certainly find it odd (and disrespectful) if you were to turn up casually or under-dressed. Shoes are also surprisingly important; dirty or scruffy shoes are a definite turn-off for any interviewer. In short, put yourself in their shoes and imagine what sort of image they would find not only acceptable, but pleasing.

As for the interview itself…..Relax! They wish you no harm at all (as mentioned above). Regardless of the role, would someone who sat there, rigid, hands on knees and staring like a frightened rabbit, impress you? Or would you rather meet someone who at least appears confident, looks you in the eye and has an engaging manner? People employ people; it’s as simple as that. 

Moving on, one of the most common errors people make is “failing to answer the question”! People often pick up their own theme and run with it, blissfully unaware that they’re not only on the wrong track, very soon they’re so far off it, they’re totally lost! (Oops). They simply don’t realise, until it’s too late, that they are lost, and plough on through what is now a jungle! It’s essential to focus on the question and keep on track.

We’ve mentioned eye contact, but it’s even more important when there is more than one (e.g. a panel) interviewer. If one member feels excluded because you failed to ‘include’ them in the conversation, they won’t be impressed by you. It stands to reason. Instead, imagine them as a group of friends who you’re enthusiastically trying to impress with a new idea. Keep them all ‘in the mix’.

Finally, there is no substitute for preparation – or rehearsal. Know your subject, carry out a mock interview(s) and know where you need to improve and how to field those tricky questions. It’ll be worth your while.

Summary

Although we’ve talked about performing at interview, you shouldn’t really think of it as a ‘performance’ as such. Actors perform; they play a part, which is not actually them. There is an adage that says: “you should simply be yourself at interview”, because it’s the ‘true you’ that they will want to employ – not a caricature. Absolutely.

If you can embody the enthusiasm and engaging personality that reflects your true self, that will be all the performance that’s necessary.

Key Points

  • First impressions
  • Dress well
  • Relax
  • Answer the question!
  • The importance of eye contact
  • Prepare